“Don’t stay too long in the shame-filled grounds of relapse. Fertile soil awaits your return and your recovery.” ― Holli Kenley, Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding the Way Back… One Breath at a Time.
Let me drop a caveat for you before you go further. I have just committed one of the numerous sins I prayed to God to deliver me from, so before you continue reading, I want to warn you that these words are from a self-condemned sinner. Why did I relapse? By the time I am done with this essay, maybe you can have a bit of a clue.
The first day I heard the word Born-Again, I was lost. Like every confused teenager, I was lost. As if I was driving to a place I thought I knew and getting there, I realised that the place I thought I knew was in another destination, one I have never heard about. So, I set out and started trying to understand the entire idea behind being a Born-Again Christian. Before this, the whole concept of God was abstract to me; I simply saw the entire Christian concept as highly fascinating stories with historical context and the bible as a mere storybook. Verses and chapters meant nothing to me. I remember one time in Sunday school when I was asked to memorise a bible verse and say it in front of the whole church during the children’s harvest. I simply climbed the stage, collected the microphone and froze. I could hear jeers and laughter from the crowd in front of me, and until today, everything else is still a blur. But since that day, I became secluded. I never spoke loudly about my faith or Christianity. I avoided having faith-based conversations because I silently feared that when it was time to back my statements with a verse out of the bible. I was going to freeze like that faithful day. So, I kept shut, read the bible verses like I would’ve read a novel, and if I became confused as a result of reading any verse or passage, I kept it to myself. After all, they would laugh at me if I am unable to complete the verse. And so, Christianity became an abstract topic for me.
A few years later, I was in junior school; I was the head of a small group of misfits. We were in every sense weirdos because our interests were on totally irrelevant things. We spent hours talking and reading about Greek mythology, occasionally acting the part out. And when we got bored or exhausted all our characters, we simply found the bible, and we were fascinated mainly by the book of Kings. So, we always read it, talked about the battles and the rulers of Israel. Then I came out of my shell and asked my questions, satisfying my curiosity. However, we weren’t reading this bible, passages in religious contexts. It was refreshing to have people with who you can share your thoughts without any mockery or prejudice.
The first time I gave my life to Christ was on the third or fourth day of our annual crusade back in junior school. The venue was our school stadium, and the preacher was a white American man. I was fascinated by his preaching’s and stories that I decided there and then that I was ready to become born again and give everything to Christ. If being born again is as enjoyable as this man said, I would love the feeling. I was like a young bride, anxious about her wedding night. Finally, I was born again, and I was alive during bible study sessions, which became my favourite part of church fellowship. I joined the choir, and my life was going smoothly till I entered the senior school and I relapsed.
I became an atheist. How is it still something that puzzles me to date? I was questioning a lot of things concerning the Christian faith. And since I changed school, I also changed friends, and my new friends weren’t precisely weirdos or highly religious folks. Even though I was still a chorister in the new school, I didn’t believe in God. My faith meter was negative below zero. The more I tried to revive my faith, the more confused and lost I became. Eventually, I left the choir. Then one faithful day, I was wandering around the school hall, a CRK exam had just being conducted for a different class, and I went in search of their question paper, and Lo and Behold, I found this bible. It was new. No name or sign was on it, and I figured it had been left behind by one of the candidates. Since I didn’t have a bible at the time, I took the bible to the hostel and began reading it. This marked my second revival.
By the time I got to the university, I was no longer an atheist. But I wasn’t entirely a Christian either. I was just a lukewarm Christian. I never missed a day of the church, but I was just an empty churchgoer. I had a friend who I called “Pastor”, and we always had spiritual conversations. He was such a person that I never held anything back while speaking to him, and he listened with rapt attention. He was also a student. So, one day, after talking well into the midnight, we said our byes and went our separate ways. A few minutes later, he knocked on my door, requesting to speak with me. I opened up, surprised, and he mentioned that God showed him a prophecy about me while he walked back to his accommodation and the repercussions if I didn’t follow the prophecies. I thanked him, and he left. Before that night, it’s been long I had prayed or spoken to God. I didn’t even know how to pray anymore. So, I laid down on my bed, my eyes facing the ceiling. I whispered to God, “God show me a sign. Speak to me.” I woke up the next day, disappointed, no signs, no word, just silence.
A months after the prophecy, I received the first repercussion. By that time, my mum had already been nagging me into joining a unit in the church. I resisted her heavily. And with the consequences of not following the prophecy breathing down my neck, I joined a unit in my fellowship, “Prayer Unit.” I was making progress, and my prayer life was blossoming once more, till one day when I was praying with the unit and then it was time to speak in tongues. The moderator talked about how everyone there that day should speak in tongues while praying, and so began. A few minutes into the prayer and everyone around me were already speaking in tongues asides myself. I opened my eyes to figure out what was wrong. There was nothing. So, I closed my eyes again and this time intensified my prayers, still nothing. That day, I walked out of the unit and turned my back on the fellowship and God.
The next time I became active in the church again was after my mum nagged me once more. Prompting me to join another unit, I wasn’t still over the previous “Speaking in tongues” humiliation. I joined another unit. It was called the “Welfare unit;” it had little to do with prayer. Although we prayed pretty often, too, I was delighted that there were fewer needs to do the “tongues battle”. I was contented. While I barely read my bible, it was just another decoration I used to beautify my wardrobe. I wasn’t an atheist, but I didn’t know who I was.
A few years after university and service, I came back into the fold — this time with more maturity. I began to study the bible and keep an open mind. I saw my faults and tried reviving my prayer life, which wasn’t easy, but I started praying regularly. Life was smooth, then suddenly a black sawn event occurred in my life, and I soon relapsed again. But from this relapse, I recognised that the times I relapsed were the times I faced one life trouble or the other. And instead of me moving towards God, I strayed away, every single time, from the time I froze in the church to my most recent years. “I was a proud coward.” Instead of running to God for help, whenever I run into sin or have any issues, I simply distanced myself, thinking I could solve them by myself. For every single time I tried, I failed woefully.
The reason for sharing this lengthy essay isn’t to motivate you. It is to encourage me. But I would be delighted if it does encourage you too. This essay shares a part of me. And it is my wish if you ask God for help publicly instead of relying on your wits and strengths. The one thing about God, I learnt these past few years, is that you can either come towards him with ease or come forcefully after passing through a myriad of life challenges. The choice is yours.
So, brethren’s, shed every spirit of pride, because as the bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Your pride will only make it difficult for God to help you and his servants to help you. As his word says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Are you tired of relapsing, so? If you’re reading this, drop a prayer for me, yourself, and anyone you wish to pray, asking God for the grace to avoid the spirit of backsliding.
Thank you, God Bless you.